Rottingdean: A potted history
Until 1928 Rottingdean was a separate entity on Brighton’s eastern border. A large downland parish in the shape of a figure-eight, it had a populous coastal area and a compact village. This village housed the three separate strands of Rottingdean life: fishermen, farm-hands and wealthy ‘arts’ folk fleeing the smoke of London and the clamour of Brighton.
Famous residents of the village
High on the downland to the north of the village, beyond Woodendean (sic) Farm and Wick farm lay the depressing Warren Farm Industrial School for orphaned and homeless children. During the late nineteenth century, Rottingdean was ‘discovered’ by the intelligentsia. A swathe of them, including Kipling, Burne Jones and Angela Thirkell, moved into the large houses that surrounded the picture book village green and duck pond. The future prime minister Stanley Baldwin (Kipling’s cousin) was married in St Margaret’s.
The early twentieth century, when all this was about to change dramatically, is best seen through the eyes of Bob Copper (the world famous folk singer). He is a local, whose books on the area cannot be bettered for local colour and acute observation.
On its western side, Rottingdean escaped being engulfed by Brighton and there is a fine cliff-top approach with a big black mill outlined on the ridge. However, suburban developments on the east carry the housing into the adjacent valley of Saltdean.
The village today
Rottingdean today is still well preserved and almost rural, with farmland on two sides and the English Channel on the other. It is a favourite for afternoon visits to ‘tea-shoppes’, the museum, and local antique shops or simply to feed the ducks on the pond. It also has a good beach and ample supply of pubs!
Needless to say housing is expensive and Rottingdean is a great retirement area with many vigorous village organisations. Do not miss the Xmas shopping evening when the village street is free of cars, bands play, and the shops and cafes stay open late.